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09.12.2009

Even calling somebody a cannibal may not impinge upon the voter

   

The Ukrainian electorate has been so inundated with scandal that even a cannibal candidate could hardly scare them.
Almost two months of the presidential campaign have passed and political experts have tried to draw first conclusions. Some call the campaign lack-lustre, others – lazy. They warn however that the closer we get to the actual elections, the more pungent will be the smoke of gunpowder on the electoral front.
Oleksandr Chernenko, Head of the Board of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine [CVU]:
- The campaign is in full swing, yet the amendments to electoral legislation have not been passed. Since the Constitutional Court has declared some provisions of the law unconstitutional, they are not in force, yet parliament has not adopted anything in replacement. What’s going to happen, say, with voting abroad? The Constitutional Court revoked the norm which said that only Ukrainian nationals on the consul’s register could vote. Yet there is no mechanism for those not on this register to vote. Another serious problem lies in the loopholes for vote-rigging imbedded in the electoral law. A particular temptation will be provided by the possibility of adding voters to the list on Election Day. This is what was actively used at the last Presidential elections. On that occasion around 300 thousand people were added to the voter lists on Election Day with the majority of these inclusions being of dubious legality…. The fact that deputies have demonstratively ignored the adoption of amendments to the electoral law arouses the suspicion that somebody is perhaps hoping to catch a fish in murky water (i.e. gain benefit from the confusion – translator). And each of them hopes that they will get the fish, not their competitors. However such playing with fire is dangerous and where is the guarantee that the dubious norms of the law will not work against those who left them?
The policy of the party headquarters as regards their choice of people in the electoral commission seems at very least odd. To be sure of the rear, they should have chosen the very best available. Yet the CVU is staying that a fair number of members of electoral commissions don’t even have elementary training, let alone experience of election campaigns.
One of the reasons is financial. People with experience who have already worked on commissions and know that it’s often difficult and thankless work don’t want to take it on for the money that’s offered. Due to the crisis, the headquarters are paying less than before. Those who once received 200-300 dollars for working in a territorial electoral commission will now get 1 thousand UAH. So the number of those willing to do it has fallen. The worst situation will be seen in election precinct commissions. There will be as usual two or three experienced “fighters” who totally govern the process. It’s good if in that they are guided by the law, and not commands from their headquarters.
1 thousand UAH for work on the territorial electoral commission – is that extra pay for a month?
That’s about how it turns out if you count from when the commission is formed to Election Day in the first round (inclusive), 3-4 commission meetings plus Election Day.. The second round is another subject.
The rates are obviously higher?
On the one hand there’s less work – only three weeks. On the other, there’s more responsibility. I think the amounts remain approximately the same.
The CVU are predicting a turnout of up to 70 percent. How much will the figures differ between the first and second rounds?
With this you need to bear in mind that many voters who in the first round will vote for a candidate with no chance of being elected, will simply not come to the second round voting. While candidates who get into the second round will declare total mobilisation of their supporters. People will be phoned on Election Day, there will be transport organized to polling stations… The second round will be won by the candidate who best mobilizes his or her voters.
According to CVU observation, most candidates are at present reducing financing of their election programmes, with even pay in the party headquarters being delayed so as to hold on to money for closer to the elections. Presumably a part of those savings will go on bribery?
That’s one thing. There’s also bribery of members of commissions, and in the second round even buying them over. In the second round the electoral commissions will be formed along the principle: eight from each candidate. There will be a temptation to gain a majority in the commissions buying the support of members of the commission from your opponent. There are other possible forms of expenditure: on exit polls, on bribing judges…. The first round is practice with everything being decided in the second round. Therefore candidates are mobilizing their efforts, hoping to twist the situation in their favour specifically at the second round stage.
Will prices for electors’ votes be influenced by the crisis?
If one recalls the elections for Mayor of Kyiv in 2008, they paid 100-200 UAH for a vote. At the early elections for the Ternopil Regional Council in villages they paid 50 UAH each. I think that at the Presidential elections they’ll pay from 50 to 150 UAH per vote.
Is the number of people willing to sell their vote getting larger?
Previously, even if people were offered money, a good many refused, not wanted to betray their ideas and convictions. Now fertile ground for buyers of voters is provided not only by the crisis, but by people’s deep disillusionment in politics and politicians.
Political experts are calling the campaign sluggish, but others believe that’s the calm before the storm. They say that closer to New Year, voters should expect the next scandal. Is there anything left capable of shocking the voters?
I don’t know what else you could think up so that it had impact. Maybe declaring somebody a cannibal? We would seem to know everything about the main political players – about the past and present, about dachas, property and so forth. They’ve begun going for those around them: one person doesn’t have a degree, another often went to Artek [the children’s camp where a scandal broke out over allegations of child abuse – translator]… However that also won’t work. As public opinion surveys showed, that didn’t have any effect on the rating of candidates and political forces, and sometimes even had the opposite effect. If somebody thinks up something else, there will again be a lot of noise, the scandal will be chewed over on talk shows, however this will be unlikely to have impact on the voter. Say, Lazarenko returns to Ukraine. What will he have to say that’s new? I think those looking for compromising material have run out of ideas.

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